While the Palestinian Liberation Organization calls for a “major day of rage” Friday, several Palestinian students told The Media Line this week they have no intention of taking part in any violent protests.
The Media Line interviewed students this week at Al-Najah University in Nablus during an international day festival there. It was held by the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab citizens of Israel and billed as supporting “the rights of Arabs who live as a minority in Israel” and for the “embodiment of Palestinian national unity”.
But the students who attended the event, many admitting they were confused by it, questioned if the festival was about national unity or instead a call to protest. The majority of seats remained empty in the auditorium that can hold up to 900 people.
"I don’t know about the activity, but both ways I'm not participating," a female law student who asked not to use her name told The Media Line. "I don’t see any real results on the ground out of these activities."
Another student told The Media Line the festivals are full of “meaningless speeches”, adding that protests near checkpoints are pointless.
"What do we accomplish? Nothing,” she said. "Fatah leaders always urge Palestinians to clash with the Israeli army while their relatives and loved ones are asleep at home safe."
Earlier this week, the PLO announced it was sponsoring festivals in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Lebanon, urging Palestinians and Arab-Israelis to march in their villages, cities and at nearest checkpoints against the Trump Administration’s position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Naser Abu-Jeshesh of the Inter-disciplinary Coordination Committee in Nablus blamed confusion about Tuesday’s event on a communication error with the university, but said the festival is part of the Palestinian public resistance against the Israeli occupation.
“We clash with the IDF soldiers to express our rejection of their presence in our land,” Abu-Jeshesh told The Media Line. “Following the PLO Central Committee decisions, this festival, peaceful marches and clashing with the IDF at checkpoints are part of the Palestinian public resistance.”
Some students supported the idea of resistance, be it through peaceful protest or direct clashes with the Israel Defense Forces.
Mo’men, a psychology student who didn’t want to give his last name, told The Media Line that protest is important for the Palestinian cause.
“The Palestinian political parties are trying to raise the Palestinian pain and voice,” Mo’men said. “I’m with any form of resistance that will lead us to free our land.”
But Hanna Issa, a Palestinian political analyst, told The Media Line that many Palestinian youth have lost faith in its leadership as a result of the division between Fatah and Hamas.
"The Palestinian leadership believed in the U.S. effort, while the latter disappointed the Palestinians for Israel," Issa explained, saying that it’s created political instability among Palestinians. “Palestinians are not ready to clash with the IDF. At the same time, the national awareness among Palestinian youth is fading."
Still, she said that losing trust in the Palestinian Authority, despite the criticism and concern, is very dangerous.
Several media students at Al-Najah University told The Media Line that, while they don’t agree with the Trump Administration’s position on Jerusalem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, violent protests cast a negative light on the Palestinian people and their cause.
"We can't really harm the Israeli soldiers in any way, but they harm us”, said one student, who added that while Palestinian youth sacrifice their lives, the Palestinian Authority doesn’t back it up with a national agenda and decisions on the ground.
"They (Palestinian youth) waste their lives, unfortunately, for nothing,” she said. “We need the whole world to know that we are peaceful, not violent. It’s a wrong image of us."
One Arab-Israeli student went as far as telling The Media Line, "I don’t know who told them we are struggling inside Israel; we live better that they [Palestinians] do."
Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital this past December, there were some deadly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in parts of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but not on the level of another Intifada as some have urged.
Still, the political rhetoric has been strong on both sides, with Palestinian officials saying they are boycotting the United States, refusing to meet with Vice President Mike Pence during his recent visit to the region, and accusing the United States of not being an honest broker of peace.
Some of the strongest rhetoric has come from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who called U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital the “slap of the century”.
The rhetoric continued at Al-Najah University on Tuesday, with Fatah's deputy, Mahmoud al-Aloul, speaking on behalf of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, saying Palestinians who live in Israel have been facing a policy of siege.
"They are suffering and in pain out of the military ruling on them, In addition to the laws of racial discrimination imposed on them by the Israeli government,” al-Aloul said. "We are seeking, through this day of solidarity with the Palestinians, to highlight the magnitude of what they face there, of humiliation and arbitrariness of identity, belonging and culture.”